DARPA Gunslinger Program to Demonstrate ‘Gun-Equipped’ Air-Launched Missile System

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has revealed the existence of a new program, dubbed Gunslinger, in its Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request.

According to DARPA, the agency seeks to demonstrate a ‘gun-equipped’ air-launched tactical missile system through the Gunslinger program.

“The Gunslinger program will develop and demonstrate technologies to enable an air-launched tactical range
missile system capable of multi-mission support. This system will utilize the high maneuverability of a missile system coupled with a gun system capable of scalable effects and engagement of multiple targets”, said the DARPA Budget Request statement on the program.

The mission sets addressed by the new weapon system will include counter-insurgency (COIN) operations, close air support (CAS) and air-to-air engagements. The anticipated transition partners for this effort are the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and the U.S. Navy. DARPA is requesting $13.27 million for the program in its 2021 budget request.

Excerpts for the FY 2021 Budget Request on DARPA Gunslinger program:

The metrics associated with this system include total range (which includes transit to target, loiter and engagement) and weapon system effectiveness. The program will address the system and technology issues required to enable development of a robust missile system considering (1) vehicle concepts possessing the required aerodynamic, propulsion, and payload capacity for a wide operational envelope, (2) the algorithms that support maneuvering and target recognition to enable expedited command decision making for selecting and engaging targets and (3) approaches to incorporating modularity of design to reduce cost throughout the design and development process. 

FY 2021 Plans for the program includes:

• Conduct trade studies, to include propulsion, munitions, sensors, GPS and communications.
• Develop higher fidelity modeling and simulation environment to support program concept of operations.
• Conduct conceptual design sizing and synthesis activities.

Further details of the program such as the type of gun that will be installed on the system, the specifications of the system and the air platforms that will be capable of carrying the system are yet to be revealed.



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